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Once Upon a Dance
Belluna's Big Adventure in the Sky: A Dance-It-Out Creative Movement Story for Young Movers

Belluna is a basketball player, sister, and daughter with one remarkable feature. While on a family outing, a storm sweeps Belluna up on a wild ride. As she is tossed about by the wind, Belluna discovers she can overcome her fear and embrace her uniqueness to take control of her movement and her mind.

Ballerina Konora joins each page with suggested actions to get kids moving alongside Belluna in her tale of level-headed tenacity and a celebration of individuality. Each Dance-It-Out! story is a movement-based children’s one-act ready for the imagination stage.

The quirky, whimsical adventure of self-discovery was created by an award-winning dance instructor, partnered with her award-winning, professional ballet-dancer daughter. They have 19 covid-19 creations published or coming soon. Their first book, Dancing Shapes: Ballet and Body Awareness for Young Dancers, has won multiple awards including a 2021 Independent Press Award (Winner).

Being different is celebrated in the latest title in the mother-daughter writing duo Once Upon a Dance’s (after Brielle’s Birthday Ball) Dance-It-Out! Collection. Belluna, the youngest of the Noollabs, is like most kids her age–she loves to play basketball, goes on vacations with her parents and brother, and has a penchant for family game nights. There’s one thing that sets Belluna and her family apart: their heads resemble purple balloons, complete with the properties of helium balloons, such as buoyancy and a gravity-defying lift. Despite their unconventional appearance, the Noollabs find their heads helpful, keeping them from getting tired while swimming and even earningstraigtening out their posture. But tragedy strikes when the family is enjoying weekend apple picking and Belluna gets caught up in a windstorm, making her wonder if being different isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Though parents will appreciate the message that being unique is an advantage, the treasure of Belluna’s story lies in the interactive dance moves the authors have designed to go along with each page. The writing team, both deeply involved in the dance world, embellish this heartwarming tale with creative exercises that young readers can try out as they move through the adventure, guided in photos by a beaming ballerina named Korona. Whether it’s acting out the family’s favorite activities or physically exploring emotions related to the storyline, playing along is delightful.

Mongodi’s dazzling illustrations, alive with cool hues and watercolor backdrops, work in tandem with the dreamy motif, and readers will be charmed by the pictures’ intricate details, such as the tiny pet hamster hiding out in several action shots. Belluna wisely shares “[e]verything is scary in the beginning, but it always gets better.” The story’s ending feels a bit rushed, and readers may wish for more insight into exactly how Belluna overcomes her calamity, but this whimsical, interactive offering will be sure to please.

Takeaway: A fanciful tale of why being different is appealing, paired with interactive dance opportunities that match the story.

Great for fans of: Jessica Collaco’s Firenze’s Light, Ashley Bouder’s Welcome to Ballet School.

Production grades
Cover: B+
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: B

Indies Today

A wonderfully unique book that engages both mind and body.

Belluna’s Big Adventure in the Sky is a brilliant collaboration between the written word and physical expression. The vibrant story begins with the happy Noollab family. Right from the start, Once Upon a Dance highlights similarities between this lively family and any other ordinary family. They enjoy time together, getting outdoors and a variety of hobbies, but with one minor difference. A turn of the page reveals an unusual characteristic the Noollabs all possess. They have giant, hairless balloon-shaped heads! At first, their unexpected faces are a bit discomforting to look at. But the Noollabs take full advantage of their peculiar feature, even finding the lofty shape beneficial in many circumstances. A day of apple picking for the fun-loving family goes awry when the daughter, Belluna, is blown into the air by a huge gust of wind. Swept away, she is separated from her family and forced to deal with the dilemma on her own. At first dismayed by the unlikely turn of events, Belluna quickly adapts and even embraces the exhilarating situation. With an impressive amount of self-awareness, rugged determination and some focused conceptualization, she finds an extraordinary way home.

Belluna’s Big Adventure in the Sky: A Dance-It-Out Creative Movement Story for Young Movers by Once Upon a Dance is so much more than a simple book designed to entertain young readers. The imaginative story is complemented by illustrations and explanations for related guided movements featuring Ballerina Konora. This special feature invites children right into Belluna’s story as they are urged to become lanky giraffes, spinning wind turbines, moving cars, and participate in many other creative motions alongside the characters. The story is so genuine and earnest in delivering its message of inclusion that readers will be completely disarmed and totally charmed with the balloon-faced Noollab family by the end of the story as we all learn a gentle lesson on acceptance. If you’re looking for a wonderfully unique book that engages both mind and body, you’ll love Belluna’s Big Adventure in the Sky, an unforgettable story that families can enjoy together again and again. 

Reading With your Kids (A Certified Great Read)

Fantastically Fun Book That Will Have Families Dancing!

Belluna’s Big Adventure in the Sky by Once Upon A Dance and Stella Mongodi is our latest certified great read that proves that reading doesn’t have to be a quiet, couch-centered activity. It’s perfect for high-energy kids because they give your little one a chance to move and burn energy while you read.

In Belluna’s Big Adventure in the Sky by Once Upon A Dance and Stella Mongodi, we are introduced to a wonderful family of four: Mother, Father, big brother Baylun, and little sister Belluna. The Noollab family is like any other family except they have balloons for their heads. Due to this unique feature some activities are challenging for the Noollabs but they are also greatly benefited from their peculiarities. Such as, all four have excellent posture, with their lofty heads pulling their bodies up straight and tall. One Saturday, when the Noollabs are out picking apples, storm sirens starts blaring and the family decides to head back home immediately. But Belluna forgets her basketball in the apple orchard so she chases the ball. Just when Belluna is about to get hold of her basketball, the strong wind carries her into the sky. She is terrified at first but her adventure begins when she actually starts enjoying the wonderful view flying over the local zoo, watching all the animals below and touching the rainbow with her hands. With nothing solid to hold on to, will Belluna ever be able to get down and reunite with her family? Read this amazingly illustrated book to find out!

Each of Noollab’s everyday experiences is translated into dance moves. For example, Ballerina Konora showcases dance moves for pretending to climb the stairs, warming up before taking a photograph, playing basketball and reaching up into the tree and pick
a few apples. All these activities are wonderfully translated into dance moves for all the dance loving kids out there. Kids will love trying all of the different moves highlighted in the book, and will appreciate the message that being brave and celebrating themselves for who they are is a powerful tool for any child.

Belluna’s Big Adventure in the Sky celebrates children who are a little or a lot different and will inspire children to embrace who they are. The vibrantly colored illustrations, peppy dance moves, and adorable characters will have kids wanting to read again and dance along.